Title: This Beautiful World
Author: Elisabeth Jackson
Genre: Romantic Suspense / Mystery
As children, RaeAnne and her sidekick King were held captive after they discovered the body of a boy their age in a crate of apples in their small town’s peculiar orchard. Now RaeAnne is grown and the mother of a troubled young daughter. After her mother is killed in an accident,
she travels home to her father with her daughter. But RaeAnne finds that she is not welcomed by everyone, and frightening incidents start to happen involving her and her family. As RaeAnne unravels the mysteries of her childhood, including what happened to her older brother, who vanished on the same night RaeAnne and King found terror in the orchard, she reunites with King. The boy she knew has grown up to be very handsome and guarded. But can the two ever be more than old friends who share a terrifying secret?
Elisabeth Jackson loves the outdoors and dogs, rescued dogs in particular. This
Beautiful World is her debut novel and blends haunting childhood secrets,
romantic themes, second chances and a mystery in a small town setting, with a
dash of Gothic elements. When she is not writing small town Romances and
Mysteries, she works as a freelance business writer. Her characters are inspired
by the rural towns she has visited and lived in. She welcomes readers to connect
with her at ejacksonbooks.com and Facebook.com/ejacksbooks.
My past didn’t just haunt me. It became a part of me. I’m grown now, with a
daughter of my own, but every time I sink my teeth into an apple’s smooth skin,
I think of the orchard. I think of the secret I became a part of one day when I
was twelve. A secret I shared with my friend, King.
In 1998, King and I searched through the crates of apples picked earlier in the
morning at the Gray orchard to take a few for a snack. We’d made it all the way
to the center of the orchard, where the apple crates were set out along the
trail for the trucks to collect.
A bird screeched and the lanky apple trees, with branches like a witch’s curved,
gnarled fingers, seemed to close in on us, as though we could become forever
lost in this crowded world of trees. If the Gray family caught us, would anyone
be able to hear our cries for help?
King plucked an especially red apple and tossed it to me.
“Thanks,” I said, catching it in my hand. I wiped the fruit against my shirt until it
shone in the summertime light and bit through the tender skin, into the crisp
white center, the sweet juice filling my mouth. I glanced up and King was
“Hey,” I said, my voice faint.
He laughed, and his tall frame jumped out from behind the line of trees, where
apples hung in the sunlight like glittering red jewels.
I dropped my half-eaten apple to the ground as he walked back to me. “Don’t ever
do that again,” I said, facing him, the sun warming my arms. “I thought you’d
left me here.”
“I’d never leave you alone.”
“Sure,” he said, and I made him shake on it.
A slender bird appeared like a wisp of dark paper in the pale blue sky, and I
watched it glide. King gasped and I turned to look at him.
“What?” I asked. Then I saw what he saw – a smooth, white thing protruding out of one of
the crates. I craned my neck for a closer look. It was a limp hand, reaching out
to us from below a mass of apples unlike the kind I’d seen other times at the
orchard, the just-picked beauties with red, dusty skins. The skins on these
apples were peeling away from the browning fruit. There was a sickly sweet smell
The hand was still attached to an arm somewhere down below. In its appearance, it
wasn’t like mine or Mama’s, and not like Daddy’s either. Dark, curly hairs were
rooted in Daddy’s knuckles like underwater seagrass. This hand was fresh, like a
I touched the skin as fast as running my finger through a candle flame, and the
surface was cold, yet soft. The hand, with smooth, blood-stained fingernails,
grasped toward us from inside an old crate held together with warped slats
punctured by loose nails. I gagged. My next instinct was to run. Run far
Behind me, King approached and I whirled around, tried to hold him back. He shrugged
past me and edged closer to the waist-high apple crate, looking inside,
searching for something more than a hand. He ran his fingers across the Gray
Family Orchard stamp on the side.
“Is he way down in there somewhere?” he asked. Standing on his toes, he leaned over
the high crate’s rim, reached to touch the inside.
“Don’t touch it,” I said, bringing his arm down, and it bumped against the rim of the
His boyish curiosity got the better of him. “What did it feel like?”